Nov. 16, 2005
ATLANTA – With a roster featuring eight freshmen and sophomores among its scholarship players, Georgia Tech basketball begins its 50th season in Alexander Memorial Coliseum Friday night when it entertains UNC-Asheville at 7 p.m.
The sold-out game will not be televised, but the radio broadcast can be heard on WQXI-AM (790) and WREK-FM (91.1). A limited number of tickets for single seats – meaning an unoccupied seat between two occupied seats – will be put on sale at the gates 90 minutes before tip-off.
Friday’s game is the first of three home games to start the season — the Yellow Jackets host Elon Monday and Illinois-Chicago on Nov. 25. Tech is 56-18 at home under head coach Paul Hewitt, including a 37-8 mark the last three seasons.
Friday begins the sixth season for Tech under Hewitt. The Yellow Jackets are 96-66 overall with three post-season appearances in five seasons under Hewitt, and begin their quest for a third straight NCAA Tournament berth Friday night.
Tech is opening its season at home for the 10th straight season, and have won each of the last nine. The Yellow Jackets have not lost a season-opener at home since the 1980-81 season, the year before Bobby Cremins became Tech’s head coach. The Yellow Jackets have actually won their last 11 season openers, home or away. Tech’s last loss in an opener was an 80-70 defeat to Michigan in the 1993 Hall of Fame Tip-Off Classic in Springfield, N.J.
Tech’s probable starting lineup for Friday’s game includes 6-0 sophomore Zam Fredrick at point guard, 6-4 junior Mario West and 6-5 sophomore Anthony Morrow on the wings, 6-6 sophomore Jeremis Smith at forward, and 6-9 sophomore Ra’Sean Dickey at center.
West, from Douglas, Ga., is an outstanding athlete with high energy and excellent defensive skills, and Morrow, from Charlotte, N.C., demonstrated an outstanding shooting touch as a freshman. West averaged just 2.0 points last year, but played in 30 games, including all 16 in the ACC, because of his ability to hold opponents’ top scorers in check. He was a key figure in Tech’s two ACC Tournament wins with six rebounds against Virginia Tech, and four points and eight rebounds against North Carolina. Morrow, Tech’s top returning scorer at 5.7 points a game, shot 36.5 percent from three-point range and had seven double-figure scoring games.
Fredrick, a former South Carolina Mr. Basketball from St. Matthews, S.C., played limited minutes last year while learning to play point guard and will man that post for the Yellow Jackets. He averaged just 1.6 points a game, but showed flashes of scoring capability in some early season games and turned the ball over just 10 times in 19 games.
Freshmen Lewis Clinch, a 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., and D’Andre Bell, a 6-5 guard/forward from Los Angeles, Calif., both high-scoring players in the prep ranks, are strong physically and should boost Tech’s firepower from the perimeter.
Up front, Hewitt looks for better things from Dickey, of Clio, S.C., in the post and Smith of Fort Worth, Texas, at power forward. Dickey averaged 5.1 points and made 62.1 percent of his field goal chances (65.9 percent in ACC games) as Tech’s No. 2 center last year. Smith, who missed 17 games last year after dislocating his right kneecap, averaged 2.9 points and 4.4 rebounds and led the Jackets on the boards three times.
Theodis Tarver, a 6-9 senior from Monroe, La., should figure in heavily in the post as the most experienced player on Tech’s team. After starting all three of Tech’s NIT games as a freshman (6.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 8-8 FG), Tarver has suffered setbacks each of the last two years, dislocating his kneecap as a sophomore, and never quite adjusting to the strong forward position last year when Smith was injured. Freshman Alade Aminu, a 6-9 player with good offensive skills and shot-blocking capabilities, will have to play the strong forward spot behind Smith.
Coach Hewitt Says …
Are you more confident about how your team might defend now that you’ve been through many practices and an exhibition game?
“We made some progress between our exhibition game and our scrimmage last weekend. But you always worry about game slippage. You work and you drill and drill, then all of a sudden you get in a game and you can’t blow that whistle, stop the action and make corrections. Are we going to stay disciplined? So far, they have done a good job.”
What have you learned about your freshmen before you got into practice? Did the exhibition and scrimmage show you anything you didn’t see in practice?
“D’Andre Bell and Alade Aminu have shown me that they’re further along offensively than I thought they were coming in. I always felt confident that Lewis Clinch could score. Paco Diaw is a guy who will be a menace defensively for people. He plays with a lot of energy on defense. He has the tools to be a very good defender.”
Anthony Morrow has been impressive in both the exhibition and scrimmage. Is he doing what you expected him to at this point?
“He, as well as three or four of our other guys, have the ability to put up big numbers at any time. But you have to have good ball movement and good screening. I have very high expectations for this team offensively. We’ve got go get him open. It’s not a matter of him getting shots. When he gets good shots, he’s going to make them.”
Are you satisfied with Zam Fredrick’s progress to this point?
“I am satisfied. But I do realize that he’s got to continue to progress. He’s got to continue this climb in order for him to be a successful and efficient point guard in the ACC.”
What are you worried about as you go in to the first game?
“Just to make sure we maintain our principles both offensively and defensively. The team is so new, there’s a lot of teaching going on, that the game comes along and you don’t have that game slippage that coaches fear.”
Series vs. UNC-Asheville
Georgia Tech and UNC-Asheville have played once before, a 97-63 Yellow Jackets home-court victory on Nov. 25, 1988.
Tech’s starting lineup for that game was Tom Hammonds and Johnny McNeil at the forwards, Maurice Brittian at center, Dennis Scott and Brian Oliver at the guards. Willie Reese, Tech’s director of basketball operations, scored eight points off the bench that night.
Georgia Tech defeated Augusta State, 96-57, in its only exhibition game on Nov. 5. Tech shot 59.6 percent in the game (11-of-19 from three-point range) while holding the Jaguars to 29.2 percent (box score attached). Tech’s starting lineup included Jeremis Smith, Ra’Sean Dickey, Mario West, Anthony Morrow and Zam Fredrick.
Fredrick scored a game-high 19 points with four assists, while Morrow added 17. They combined to make 8-of-12 three-point tries. Smith had nine points and seven boards.
Tech in the Thrillerdome
Georgia Tech is playing its 50th season at Alexander Memorial Coliseum (capacity 9,191), and the Jackets have a record of 491-166 (.747) in the building, which opened Nov. 30, 1956 with a 71-61 Tech loss to Duke. Since the 1981-82 season, Tech is 252-65 (.794) in its on-campus home.
The Yellow Jackets were 12-3 at home in 2004-05, and have won 38 of their last 46 games in the Thrillerdome dating back to the final two home games of 2001-02.
Tech is 141-8 against non-conference opposition at Alexander Memorial Coliseum since the beginning of the 1981-82 season, including 22 straight wins against such teams. From 1981 through last season, the only non-ACC teams to win at the Thrillerdome were Penn, Tulane and IUPUI (all in the 2001-02 season), Georgia (2000), Penn State (1998), College of Charleston (1993), Louisville (1989), and Richmond (1987).
Georgia Tech has played before sellout crowds every home game since its run to the Preseason NIT championship in November of 2003.
Yellow Jacket Storylines for 2005-06
> Tech lost five seniors and a junior, all of whom started at least 21 games, from last year’s team, the heaviest losses of any team in the ACC save North Carolina, and the most for any Yellow Jacket team ever. Those six players played 75.1 percent of the minutes for Tech last year, formed the starting lineup for every game, scored 79.2 percent of the points and took 62.1 percent of the rebounds.
> Tech has been predicted to finish ninth in the ACC by the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association. Pre-season magazine predictions have varied from sixth to last.
> Tech’s 14-man roster today includes 10 scholarship players — one senior, one junior, four sophomores and four freshmen.
> Only one player, senior center/forward Theodis Tarver, has started a game for Tech. He started all three games of the Yellow Jackets’ NIT run in 2003, averaging 6.7 points and 4.0 rebounds while hitting all eight of his field goal attempts and recording five assists.
> The bulk of Tech’s playing time will fall to its sophomore class of Anthony Morrow, a 6-5 guard, Ra’Sean Dickey, a 6-9 center, Jeremis Smith, a 6-6 forward, and Zam Fredrick, a 6-0 guard. All but Fredrick played key roles for Tech during the latter part of last season, combining to average 13.7 points a game. Fredrick, a prolific scorer in high school, spent most of the season learning the point guard position and enters the season as the starter there.
> Tech signed four high school players to letters-of-intent last year, but only three of them enrolled at the Institute. Point guard Austin Jackson, also a highly-regarded outfield prospect from Denton, Texas, signed a baseball contract with the New York Yankees after the team drafted him in the eighth round. Tech’s three enrolled freshmen are 6-9 center/forward Alade Aminu, 6-5 wingman D’Andre Bell and 6-3 guard Lewis Clinch. Paco Diaw, a 6-6 guard from Dakar, Senegal who attended high school in Atlanta, enrolled at Tech in the fall and is eligible to play this year.
> Lewis Clinch, Tech’s 6-3 guard from Cordele, Ga., has been projected as one of the nation’s top 10 impact freshmen by Rivals.com, and one of 20 freshmen in the nation to watch by Scout.com.
> Charlton Young, who spent the past season at Tennessee-Chattanooga and seven seasons at Auburn before that, joined Tech’s coaching staff in June. A former all-conference performer at Georgia Southern, Young replaced Cliff Warren, who was named the head coach at Jacksonville University.
> The Yellow Jackets will observe the 100th anniversary of its first game in February (a loss to Auburn on Feb. 17, 1906), though Tech does not actually play on that date.